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What is a "search" under the Fourth Amendment?

The Fourth Amendment to the United States Constitution provides protection against unreasonable searches and seizures. In a criminal defense case, a judge may order evidence suppressed if the court determines that police acted in violation of a defendant's Fourth Amendment rights. But not all police searches will be viewed as unreasonable. And not all police conduct necessarily qualifies as a search.

The United States Supreme Court in the case of United States v. Jones addressed the question of what constitutes a "search" for purposes of a Fourth Amendment motion to suppress. If you are facing criminal charges in Utah and believe that your Fourth Amendment rights have been violated by an unreasonable search, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help give you the best chance of successfully defending your case. Based in Salt Lake City, Stephen Howard provides legal services to clients throughout the state. Contact us today to arrange for an initial consultation.

United States v. Jones

The existence of a search by police is a preliminary question in the analysis of many potential motions to suppress. The question of whether police conduct constitutes a "search" is not always a black-and-white question. The United States Supreme Court issued an opinion on January 23, 2012 in the case of  United States v. Jones that may dramatically affect how Utah courts address the concept of a "search" in the context of Fourth Amendment violations in Utah criminal defense cases.

For most of our country's history, the concept of a "search" under the Fourth Amendment was interpreted by the courts as being tied to the common law idea of trespass. However, in 1967, the United States Supreme Court, in Katz v. United States, stated that "the Fourth Amendment protects people, not places." The Katz opinion held that for government action to be considered a "search" under the Fourth Amendment, a person must first have a reasonable expectation of privacy in the place or thing searched. In making this decision, the court opened the proverbial door for police to potentially commit what would otherwise be considered a trespass, without violating the Fourth Amendment.

The Court's opinion in Jones clarifies (or perhaps reestablishes) that a Fourth Amendment "search" occurs either when government action violates a person's reasonable expectation of privacy, or when the government makes a physical invasion of a person's property for the purpose of gathering information. The Jones opinion thus broadens the scope of conduct that may be considered a "search" under the Fourth Amendment, and may make a motion to suppress a viable option in more criminal defense cases.

Finding a Criminal Lawyer in Salt Lake City, Utah

Utah Criminal Defense LawyerIf you are facing criminal prosecution in Utah and believe that the government may have violated your Fourth Amendment rights, you should contact an experienced Utah criminal defense attorney to discuss how a motion to suppress may help your case.  Based in Salt Lake City, criminal defense lawyer Stephen Howard has handled thousands of serious criminal cases in Utah.  Contact us today to schedule an initial consultation and case analysis.

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Serving Salt Lake, Davis, Weber, Utah, Cache, Tooele, Summit, Box Elder, and Wasatch Counties, and all of Utah.

Attorney Stephen Howard practices as part of the Canyons Law Group, LLC and Stephen W. Howard, PC.

Offices in Salt Lake and Davis Counties
560 South 300 East, Suite 200, Salt Lake City, UT 84111
952 S. Main St., Suite A, Layton, UT 84041

Call now to arrange for a confidential initial consultation with an experienced and effective Utah criminal defense lawyer.

In Salt Lake City, call 801-449-1409.
In Davis County, call 801-923-4345.

Stephen W. Howard, PC

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